Pakistan-Turkmenistan Relations: A Quick Overview

Muhammad Fahim


Soon after the disintegration of the USSR, Turkmenistan got independence in 1991. Pakistan was one of the first countries that recognized Turkmenistan as an independent and sovereign state in December 1991. Subsequently, diplomatic relations were established between the two in May 1992. In 2001, on the 10th anniversary of the brotherly country, Turkmenistan, Pakistan issued stamps. Moreover, both countries share the same views on regional and international issues and coordinate within International and regional mechanisms like UN, NAM, ECO, OIC, and G-77. Though Turkmenistan is not a part of the Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QTTA) which is aimed at giving access to the central Asian states and China to Pakistani warm water ports, however, Pakistan has given special access to Turkmenistan to Pakistani warm water ports.

On the diplomatic front, late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto visited Turkmenistan in October 1994, followed by the visit of then Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Mr. Mian Muhmmad Nawaz Sharif to Turkmenistan in 1997. Furthermore, the then President of Pakistan Mr. Asif Ali Zardari visited Turkmenistan in 2010. After his reelection for the third time into the throne in 2013, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the three times Prime Minister of Pakistan visited Turkmenistan in 2015 to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline. Shortly after his 2015 visit, Sharif visited Turkmenistan again in 2016. Moreover, after Sharif’s departure, his predecessor, then Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, continued furthering our relations with the brother Muslim country and visited Turkmenistan in 2018. Conversely, the incumbent President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, is only second President in the history of the country since it gained independence from USSR in 1991. He succeeded the first Turkmenistan President for life, Saparmurat Niyazov, when he died in 2006. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov visited Pakistan in 2011, 2016, and 2017.

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline is the center point of most of the recent Pakistan and Turkmenistan engagements. The project is expected to be completed by 2022. Once it’s completed, the natural gas will be pumped from the natural resources-rich fields of Galkynysh of Turkmenistan to the energy-hungry countries of South Asia, namely Pakistan and India. Furthermore, TAPI is a marvelous instance of regional cooperation, peace, and harmony. In 2016, during then Prime Minister of Pakistan Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif’s reign, Pakistan has inked MoU with Turkmenistan to import one thousand megawatt electricity from the latter.

Moreover, during Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Turkmenistan in 2016, he suggested that both the brotherly countries should connect through rail, roads, and direct air routes connecting Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan. Besides, he emphasized on relaxed visa regime to boost and increase economic activities in the region.

Pakistan and Turkmenistan inked scores of Inter-governmental MoUs and accords to improve partnership and collaboration in the field of energy, agriculture, trade, livestock, technology, education, science, health, tourism, and sports. After the formation of the Pak-Turkmen Joint Business Council (PTJBC), Business associations of Pakistan and Turkmenistan are facilitating a large number of commodity purchases. The PTJBC was created by the Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Chamber of Commerce of Turkmenistan by inking MoU.

There are myriads of cultural, religious and economic ties between the two Muslim brotherly countries that link them closely with each other. Pakistan and Turkmenistan share a common religion and have many commonalities between the cultures of the two brotherly countries. TAPI will revolutionize the economics of the regional countries. If European can connect the entire continent by rail, roads, and air routes, why not we, Asians, can connect South Asia, or South and Central Asia or entire Asia through rail, roads and air routes to eradicate poverty and bring prosperity, harmony and peace to the continent. China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC) is a great opportunity for the Central Asian countries and Russia to get access to Pakistani warm water ports and connect with the wider world.